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Kobo Arc review


An affordable, good-quality compact tablet, but it’s undermined by a few small weaknesses

Review Date: 10 Jan 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: (16GB, £133 (£160 inc VAT); 32GB, £158 (£190 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £97
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

4 stars out of 6

Until now, small tablets have been divided into two clear camps: colour ebook readers, tied down to the manufacturers’ own stores and content offerings; and all-purpose tablets, designed with a more flexible front-end. The Kobo Arc is the first we’ve come across with its feet in both.

On the Kobo and WHSmith website, the Kobo Arc is marketed as an ebook reader with a colour screen. In this regard it’s a direct rival for the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble Nook HD. It comes complete with reading and store apps linked to the Kobo store, which Kobo clearly wants you to buy content from, a fact reinforced by the presence of a recommendations bar running along the bottom of the screen. This recommends Kobo books and other content based on shortcuts and other items you’ve pinned to the homescreen.

Kobo Arc

Yet, despite this, the Arc bears more similarities to a standard compact Android tablet, such as the Nexus 7, than to a colour ebook reader. Although it’s preloaded with the Kobo store, you’re not tied down in any way. That’s mainly due to the fact that the tablet comes with Google Play preinstalled, meaning it’s entirely possible to run the Amazon Kindle reading app and the Nook app alongside Kobo’s software.

That gives the Arc a major advantage over the Kindle Fire HD, and the front-end is more flexible, too. You can drop links to books, web pages and apps onto the homescreen just as you can with any standard Android tablet.

There are some tweaks, though. The screen scrolls continuously left to right, rather in single, discrete leaps, and a series of large square tiles give access to a series of what Kobo calls “tapestries” – essentially a collection of themed sub-home pages. The tablet comes preloaded with Reading, Entertainment, Social and Browsing tapestries, but you can also set up your own.

Kobo Arc

The recommendations bar isn’t particularly helpful. None of its suggestions were particularly appropriate, and as they’re mostly a series of plain thumbnail images, it’s difficult to decide whether to tap them or not.

The preloaded Kobo reading app is better. Along with the usual font and background options, Kobo incorporates social networking features, allowing readers to post and read other readers’ comments on the book they’re currently reading. Book stats let you view how many times a book has been read, and even who’s reading it right now.

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User comments

Just me?

Am I alone in finding the reading experience on these LCD based eBook readers absolutely horrid compared to e-ink devices such as the (non-fire) Kindle?

They might be OK for reading short articles, but I can't cope with reading a whole novel on one.

By PaulOckenden on 10 Jan 2013

I think I'll hold out for proper colour e-ink screens.

By JamesD29 on 10 Jan 2013

Me too

By paulandsoulefe on 10 Jan 2013


Yep, the same here. Reading on an LCD screen is okay for short stings - doctor's waiting room etc. but for in bed or in the bath, I'll stick with a proper eBook reader.

By big_D on 10 Jan 2013

Echoing the comments above could each review mention whether the display can be used for hours without eye strain in the same way as e-ink displays?

By Mark_Thompson on 10 Jan 2013

It works for me

I have been reading books on my phone for years, and with the reader set to white on black, I have had no problems.

By tirons1 on 10 Jan 2013

I have to agree with tirons, reading on my Nexus 7 with white on black is not a problem and have read in bed for 2 hrs without any issues.

By Jonchill on 11 Jan 2013

Me too...

I read e-books on my HTC titan & original Kindle Fire, as well as my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 +... The screen gives me no issues, even for long term reading. I have mine set to sepia background, decent font size, and the backlight about mid-level. No issue at all.

By skooptech on 16 Jan 2013

Kobo Ark 32GB

Can you read with this at night without an external light on?

By Sharon777 on 11 Feb 2014

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